Go beyond the gore and get the message
Reviewers have panned ‘Agent Vinod’ but the film has broken the stereotype of the Muslim terrorist.
To borrow from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, one often misses the forest for the trees: Individual scenes can so overwhelm the senses that we lose the larger picture.
I am talking of Saif Ali Khan’s much hyped “Agent Vinod.” Trashed by reviewers and written off as a colossal flop, the film has been banned in Pakistan. In my view, however, people have been so turned off by the violence in the film that they have missed its larger point. I regard the point as the raison d’être of “Agent Vinod.”
I see the film as a bold cinematic statement which categorically delinks Islam from terrorism, almost exemplifying the cliché “Terror has no colour, no religion.”
Violence and poverty
The film opens with a scene in a dusty, rugged and overcrowded camp, Dash-e-Margoh, in Afghanistan. Vinod is tied up and tortured by Colonel Huzaifa of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) watched over by a posse of shalwar clad, rifle bearing men. What is as hard hitting as the violence is the wretchedness and poverty of the people huddling in the camp.
Agent Vinod is the ace spy from the Indian intelligence who is in pursuit of an elusive terror source. On board the Trans-Siberian express, he jets across the world from Kandahar to Tangiers, from Latvia to St. Petersburg, going from the rolling greens of London to five-star hotels in Karachi.
All the while he is looking for the terror trigger, which rests in hands far beyond the reach of ordinary intelligence, hands which are both invisible and invincible.
Agent Vinod is pitted against the Pakistani agent, Iram Parveen Bilal, who has been unleashed by the ISI across continents to track down the same source of terror. The point the film makes is that we ordinary people are only permitted to see half truths. We are shown (by our rulers) terror cells and terror capsules which are carefully crafted facades for the real thing. We see smoking guns and dead bodies, and we are led to sleeper cells of the Jaish and Lashkar. Names like ‘Abu,’ ‘Abdul,’ ‘Al Nasr’ are thrown at us so unceasingly that we cannot but join the dots to Islam. We see a terrorist in every Muslim and Islam becomes synonymous with terror. But as Agent Vinod and Iram Parveen Bilal eventually find out, the people they are chasing are the wretched of the earth, creatures of harsh terrains who are merely pawns carrying out the biddings of powers far beyond and far above them. India and Pakistan, personified by Vinod and Iram, have to understand, in the words of Kareena (Iram), “We are after all on the same side.”
Enter Sir Jagdishwar Metla, Indian origin British Lord, who glides on water, cuts ribbons, walks across golf greens, greets mothers and babies and obliges TV anchors. In his plush Oxford Street office is a photograph of him with a bunch of international buddies, global players and Sultans of the stock market. It is a black and white snapshot of the cartel that rules the world.
What we need to see
When Vinod confronts him, Sir Metla flicks him off like a speck of dirt. “What do you know of the complexities of the game?” he asks. “Whenever there is a blast anywhere in the world, do you know what happens at the stock market?” “But what about the lakhs who get killed?” asks Vinod. “What about them?” he asks, adding with a shrug, “But you will have to excuse me. I am the chief guest at the London Rotary.”
“You will be killed for this Sir,” Vinod replies softly. “But yours will be the death of a martyr; roads and buildings will be named after you, memorials will be built for you.”
The assassination takes place according to script. A scruffy member of the sleeper cell appears with a bouquet in front of Sir Metla and pulls the trigger. The real assassin is blown up; no one would ever know the truth behind the screaming news headlines.
For me, the film has opened a new window to vindicate Islam; the very word Islam means Peace.
The film attempts to erase the scars and rid Islam of the terror tag. It speaks an inconvenient truth. Unfortunately, this truth escapes most of the audience which sees the violence of the film as an assault.
The film is rightly dedicated to ‘Abba’ Mansoor Ali Khan Tiger Pataudi. He would have been proud of his son. As viewers, we ought to look beyond the obvious to reach the core of a truth that is as uncomfortable as it is stark.
(The writer is Member, Planning Commission.)
Shaken, not stirred enough
Agent Vinod: Stylish but staple
One of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Hope, one feels once more happy.
Secret of my longevity
Sweet and sour
Coming on to 98 years and still earning more than I did in my younger days, people ask me how I manage to do it. They regard me as an expert on longevity. I have pronounced on the subject before: I will repeat it with suitable amendments based on my experiences in the past two years.
Earlier I had written that longevity is in one’s genes: children of long-living parents are likely to live longer than those born of short-lived parents. This did not happen in my own family. My parents who died at 90 and 94 had five children, four sons and a daughter.
The first to go was the youngest of the siblings. Next went my sister who was the fourth. My elder brother who was three years older than me went a couple of years ago. Two of us remain. I, who will soon be 98, and my younger brother, a retired Brigadier three years younger than me and in much better health. He looks after our ancestral property. Nevertheless, I still believe gene is the most important factor in determining one’s life-span.
More important than analysing longevity is to cope with old age and make terms with it. As we grow older, we are less able to exercise our limbs. We have to devise ways to keep them active. Right into my middle eighties, I played tennis every morning, did the rounds of Lodhi gardens in winter and spent an hour in the swimming pool in summer. I am unable to do this any more.
The best way to overcome this handicap is regular massages. I have tried different kinds of massages and was disappointed with the oil drip and smearing of oil on the body. A good massage needs powerful hands going all over one’s body from the skull to the toes. I have this done at least once a day or at times twice a day. I am convinced that this has kept me going for so long.
Equally important is the need to cut down drastically one’s intake of food and drink. I start my mornings with a glass of guava juice. It is tastier and more health-giving than orange or any other fruit juice. My breakfast is one scrambled egg on toast. My lunch is usually patli kichri with dahi or a vegetable. I skip afternoon tea. In the evening I take a peg of Single Malt Whisky. It gives me a false appetite! Before I eat my supper, I say to myself “don’t eat too much”.
I also believe that a meal should have just one kind of vegetable or meat followed by a pinch of chooran. It is best to eat alone and in silence. Talking while eating does not do justice to the food and you swallow a lot of it. For me no more Punjabi or Mughlai food. I find south Indian idli, sambar and grated coconut easier to digest and healthier.
Never allow yourself to be constipated. The stomach is a storehouse of all kinds of ailments. Our sedantry life tends to make us constipated. Keep your bowels clean by whatever means you can: by lexatives, enemas, glycerine suppositories —whatever Bapu Gandhi fully understood the need to keep bowels clean. Besides, taking an enema every day, he gave enemas to his women admirers.
Impose a strict discipline on your daily routine. If necessary, use a stop-watch. I have breakfast exactly at 6.30 am. lunch at noon, drink at 7 pm, supper at 8 pm.
Try to develop piece of mind. For this you must have a healthy bank account. Shortage of money can be very demoralising. It does not have to be in crores, but enough for your future needs and possibility of falling ill. Never lose your temper. It takes a heavy toll and jangles one’s nerves. Never
tell a lie. Always keep your national motto in mind: Satyamev Jayate – only truth triumphs.
Give away generously. Remember you cannot take it with you. You may give it to your children, your servants or in charity. You will feel better. There is joy in giving. Drive out envy of those who have done better than you in life. A Punjabi verse sums up:
Rookhi sookhy khai kay Thanda paani pee
Na veykh paraayee chonparian Na tarsaain jee
(Eat dry bread and drink cold water
Pay no heed or envy those who smear their chapatis with ghee.)
Do not conform to the tradition of old people spending time in prayer and long hours in places of worship. That amounts to conceding defeat. Instead take up a hobby like gardening, growing bonsai, helping children of your neighbourhood with their homework.
A practice which I have found very effective is to fix my gaze on the flame of candle, empty my mind of everything, but in my kind repeat Aum Shanti, Aum Shanti, Aum Shanti. It does work. I am at peace with the world. We can’t all be Fawja Singh who as 100 runs a marathon race, but we can equal him in longevity, creativity. I wish all my readers long, healthy lives full of happiness.